A convicted rapist who some say should have been behind bars was sentenced Wednesday to life in prison for the 2007 rape and strangulation of a homeless teenage girl.
Two years before the girl’s murder, Gilton Beltrand Pitre, 38, had been eligible for prosecution under the state’s three-strikes law when he was charged with a felony for selling $5 worth of marijuana to an undercover police officer. His two strikes included a 1994 residential burglary and a 1996 rape.
Under the law, Los Angeles County prosecutors could have sought a sentence of 25 years to life in prison. Instead, as a result of a policy by Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley in which prosecutors generally do not pursue life sentences for relatively minor offenses, Pitre was allowed to plead guilty to a drug crime in exchange for a 32-month prison term, court records show.
Alyssa Gomez, 15, was killed June 4, 2007, four days after Pitre was released from prison.
During Cooley’s primary campaign for California attorney general earlier this year, opponents pointed to Pitre’s case as evidence that Cooley was soft on criminals.
Cooley has defended his policy, saying justice requires that the punishment should fit the crime. His approach has won widespread support during three successful campaigns for district attorney, but also has drawn fire from critics who say his policy fails to adequately protect society from repeat offenders.
In Gomez’s murder, prosecutors said, Pitre visited the Olive Motel on Sunset Boulevard with the runaway, who had been living on the streets since she was 12. Her lifeless body, wrapped in a bedspread from the motel, was discovered the next morning in an alley behind a Silver Lake restaurant. Prosecutors said Pitre had sex with the girl and then strangled her. In May, he was found guilty of murder.
At Wednesday’s sentencing hearing, Gomez’s sister asked Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Kathleen Kennedy to send Pitre to prison for the rest of his life.
“Please, please never let this happen again,” a tearful Elaina Novoa said. “She was a little girl … I’m sure he will do it again.”
Actress Dyan Cannon, who knew the victim from making a documentary about street kids and runaways in Hollywood, told the judge that Gomez “had a lot of heartbreak and was a good girl.”
“She wrote beautiful poetry and sang good songs,” Cannon said. “I was with her three days before she was killed. I begged her to go to a place where she could receive help.”
Kennedy sentenced Pitre to 75 years to life for murder, 25 years for the statutory rape of the teenager and another 10 years because of two prior serious offenses.
She noted a security videotape in which Pitre is seen placing Gomez’s body in the trunk of his car.
“There is no panic. There is no evidence of regret.... She was disposed of like a piece of trash,” Kennedy said. “Mr. Pitre is one of those people who is a predator.”